What can I ask instead of “How are you?” to kick off my Voice Lessons?
We’ve all been there. It’s the beginning of a lesson. We know we need some sort of “check-in,” yet we don’t want it to become drama-lama-ding-dong time. We ask, “How are you?”, hoping that the answer is “fine.” But it’s not. It’s a really long story we don’t have the emotional energy for – and we can’t really cut our singer off – because we opened the door with the question! We need a better question to start a voice lesson with than “How are you?”
When you just don’t have the capacity to be a pseudo-therapist yet you know this next singer/client is one of those ones that’s a low-key energy vampire, it’s essential that you’ve got some go-to questions that will put you back in emotional regulation.
I know – You love that student so much. You also do not have the bandwidth.
Or maybe your student is fine, and it’s you. You just don’t wanna do the work today. FAIR.
Now, what you’d usually hear me say is, “CANCEL THAT SESSION, HOT STUFF, AND GET THEE TO AN EPISODE OF BRIDGERTON.”
Sometimes that simply isn’t an option. (We can talk about that later – I got my eyeballz on ya!)
Instead, what do we do when we need to reduce our emotional labor and give our singers the opportunity to get their minds right for the session?
We ask different questions. (psst – this is just plain a good idea to do anyway, even if it’s just a regular ol’ session, because let’s face it, “how are you?” is sooooooooo boring.”
Instead of “How are you?”, which is an open-ended question that could result in something as benign as “fine” or as toxic as every excruciating detail of the conversation with so and who and how beets are affecting their tummy, ask one of these instead.
Begin your voice lesson with these five less dramatic questions.
- What were you doing in the five minutes before you came to your session?
- What made you smile in the last hour?
- If you had to focus on only two sensations in this session today, what would they be?
- What is one thing you are looking forward to in the next few days?
- Let’s play a game: tell me, in 30 seconds, about your entire day up until now? The rules are: You can only use gibberish (a made-up language). Don’t leave anything out! (Set a timer. When it goes off, ask how far they got… laugh together!)
Here are some of the opportunities that asking these better questions bring to the lesson:
- They encourage looking only to the most recent past, not the entire drama of the day past. For example, don’t get picky on how they define the 5 minutes before – that’s not the point.
- They encourage remaining mindful and present in the now. You can use the answers to these questions to develop fun exercises. Example: I had a younger student tell me they were eating Jelly Beans five minutes before. She said, “I LOVE jelly beans.” Now, one of her favorite exercise sets is a 1-3-5-1-5-3-1 arpeggio singing OH, HOW I LOVE JE-LY BEANS. If you’re a singing teacher, you’ll see the multiple technical applications to that phrase!
- A follow-up to these could be: “Fabulous. How would you like to use that/release that energy in our session today?”
- ”Use that” for times when it was a forward motion thing they were doing, like playing with their kid or finishing up a project.
- “Release that” for times when it was a neutral or backward motion thing they were doing, like watching tv (neutral) or fighting with mom (backward?)
- It allows you to not have to hear stories that will either bring YOU down or bring THEM down.
- I know, I know, we have this idea that people can’t sing well when they are in a funk. Guess what? You can’t teach well when YOU are in a funk, so it’s your job to lead the session out of Funkytown. Unless of course, it’s Lipps Inc Funkytown. Definitely go to that Funkytown.
- That last one? Let’s off steam, encourages the playful part of the brain and distracts from that whole drama-lama-ding-dong. 30 seconds is also the perfect amount of time for you to take a few vagal nerve reset breaths. (Breathing in for 5, Breathing out for 10, for example.)
The next time you’re just not feeling it, shake up your beginning of the session conversation and see if this helps get you and your beloved singer on a path to a focused and enjoyable session!
Comment below and tell me how it went…
All My BeastyBoss,